Phased in during a time of strong economic expansion, welfare reform and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program have been associated P with an unprecedented drop in the welfare rolls and commensurate increases in employment. While the nation’s rural areas have shared in the benefits of economic prosperity and welfare reform, poverty continues to be more prevalent and persistent in rural areas than in nonrural ones. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is funding the Rural Welfare-to-Work (WtW) Strategies Demonstration Evaluation to learn how best to help TANF and other low-income rural families move from welfare to work. Under contract to ACF, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (MPR), along with Decision Information Resources, Inc. (DIR), is conducting the evaluation.
Economic and geographic conditions in rural areas make it especially difficult for welfare recipients and other low-income families to enter, maintain, and advance in employment and secure longer-term family well-being. Unemployment and underemployment rates are higher, and average earnings are lower, in rural labor markets than in urban ones. The lower population densities and greater geographic dispersion that characterize most rural areas result in severe transportation problems and limited employment options. Key services, such as education, training, child care, and other support services, are often unavailable or difficult to access.
Many evaluations have focused on rural populations and employment strategies, but few, if any, have been rigorous. The Rural WtW Evaluation will lead to increased information on well-conceived rural WtW programs. Distinctive, innovative programs in three states—Illinois, Nebraska, and Tennessee—were selected as evaluation sites. A rigorous evaluation of each will greatly contribute to knowledge about what rural strategies work best for different groups of welfare recipients and other low-income families. It also will highlight lessons about the operational challenges associated with these programs, provide recommendations for improving them, and guide future WtW programs and policies related to the rural poor.
- PDF Rural Welfare-to-Work Strategies Demonstration Evaluation (174.71 KB)